Book Trailer for Pilikia

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Man to man, woman to woman

On the Make Mine Mystery blog, today, I write about the conversation differences between men and women. Here, I expand on that with some man-to-man talk.

Man-to-man talk is even more laconic than man-to-woman talk. Compare the following passage with Hawk to the passage with Susan. Same length: Six utterances for Hawk, five for Spenser. Only here Spenser averages 2.8 words per utterance. As with his conversation with Susan about half of his utterances are fragments. Likewise with Hawk. His sentences tend to be short and half are fragments

Men connect with each other through games of one-upmanship that involve building themselves up and putting the other one down. When Hawk tells Spenser he's worth a third, not half and Spenser responds by calling Hawk a "cheap bastard," they are connecting with each other, the more so because there is actually nothing at stake.

"You working on anything?" Hawk said.
"I was thinking about breakfast,” I said.
"I might need some support,” Hawk said.
"You might?”
“Yeah. Pay’s lousy.”
"How much?" I said.
"I’m getting nothing.”
"I’ll take half,” I said.
"You ain’t worth half,” Hawk said. “Besides I got the job and already put in a lot of time on it. Give you a third.”
“Cheap Bastard,” I said.
“Take it or leave it,” Hawk said.

Robert B. Parker, Double Deuce.

Here, in contrast, is an exchange between two women, Tess Monaghan and her friend Whitney Talbot. Tess is a private eye and they are planning a job together. Unlike men who bond through one-upmanship, these women bond differently.

"Can I pass for seventeen?" Tess asked, leaning forward to study her face in the rearview mirror.
"You'll squeak by in that light, if only because he wants to believe you're seventeen.," Whitney said, not unkindly for her. "Besides, when was the last time a man looked at your face upon first meeting?"

Laura Lippman, The Last Place.

In contrast to Hawk and Spenser, each of these women use longer sentences, about 8.5 words each. About two-thirds of the their sentences are complete. Women talk to women much as they talk to men.

Women connect with other women by offering compliments as Whitney does at the end here when she suggests that Tess has a figure that men notice.